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Gaudiya Vaishnavism in the modern world. Dealing with the varieties of challenges we face as practicing Gaudiyas amidst Western culture.

The Meaning of Miracles - How should we view them?

Mina - Wed, 26 Mar 2003 00:11:36 +0530
This is about an event I experienced two days ago. I have described it to ADR Singh already, and I thought it should be shared with our entire community and discussed. It involves the building of a small wall to keep weeds and grass from encroaching on Sri Giridhari's flowerbed out in our yard. This is the shape of the paving stones that I used:



I was expecting all of the bricks to be of the shape of the upper image. The lower image is basically a mirror image of that same brick. They are meant to interlock, as you can see by their shape, but a brick shaped like the lower image will not interlock with a brick shaped like the upper image. Also, it is not possible to just flip the paving stone over, because it has a flat back side and a decorative front side with curved edges and a groove. I mean, one could do that, but it would not be aesthetically pleasing to look at.

Basically the wall is two bricks high and the back side is against a wooden fence, rather than flat on the ground as they would be on a walkway. The lower level of bricks is set a few inches into the dirt to anchor them and there are a couple of fence posts set in concrete, where it is not possible to set the lower level in the dirt. I will get back to this later, as it is significant.

Are you still with me? Hopefully the above description is not too confusing. Don't worry, the complicated part is over.

So, we had an existing wall one layer of bricks high, but that was not high enough to serve the purpose. Hence, I went to the store and purchased more bricks to double the height of the retaining wall. When I returned and started to unload the stones and use them to build up the wall, I noticed that several of them were of the shape of the lower image above. At first I was distubed by that, thinking that I would have to return them and exhange them for stones of the shape of the upper image above. Then it occured to me that I could just pair them up with bricks that match and just take some from the lower level and use them in the upper level. Since I had a few extra bricks on hand, it would work out mathematically.

With that plan in mind, I took the stones two by two (one in each hand) and placed them on the upper level of the wall. I was expecting to run out of stones of the right shape eventually for the upper level. When I got to one of the fence posts set in concrete, I pulled out one of the stones shaped like the lower image above and set it in that place, and kept on going. I know this sounds rather incredible, but I reached the end of the wall without running out of bricks of the right shape. I went and looked at the few remaining bricks to check their shape, and they were all of the shape of the upper image above! I had not counted the number of bricks that were of the lower shape above, but there had to have been at least half a dozen of them when I first noticed them in the back of our Ford Explorer.

I stood there puzzled for a moment, trying to decide if I had gone temporarily insane or needed a new prescription for my bifocals. Then it dawned on me that it was some sort of miracle. Ordinarily bricks do not change shape after they come out of the factory.

The next morning I went out to look at the wall again just to make sure I did not imagine the whole thing. I also checked the three left over bricks under the porch. Sure enough all the bricks, except the one I had set by the fence post set in concrete were the shape of the upper image above. It seems that Giriraj, or whatever Deity was responsible for this miracle, decided to leave that paving stone unchanged.

ADR has commented to me that it could be aparAdha to dismiss these types of miracles as ordinary phenomenon or some trick played on us by our minds. So, not only am I not going to dismiss it in that way, but I have decided to share it with the rest of the world (well the rest of the world of Vaishnavas at least).

Comments, anyone? A similar experience to share perhaps?
hari charan das - Wed, 26 Mar 2003 00:30:04 +0530
Jai Sri Radhe,
I also experience similar type of miracle whenever we serve large/small quanties of prasadam. The interesting thing is that we are able to serve as many people as possible and even the last person also get the needed prasadam. Another interesting thing is not even little prasadam get wasted. whether the gathering is 5000 or 50 people. Normally in a big festival it is not at all possible to predict the number of peple comming but all of them get full meal prasadam. I feel it is a miracle of Sri sri radha krishna.

Jai Sri Radhe,
Hari Charan Das
Mina - Wed, 26 Mar 2003 06:21:44 +0530
A very splendid story indeed, HCC! It is the duplication of the miracle of the multiplication of loaves described in the New Testament. For all the Christian sects, that is one of the major ones, along with Christ's walking on water and changing water to wine.

There are many many stories of miracles associated with particular Deities in Their various arca-vigraha forms. These events keep happening at so many temples around the world.

I think we need to view these as more of an inspiration to develop prema, although they also serve to bolster faith for those that need to strengthen theirs. For the advanced devotees, who have no lack of faith, they are an intimate form of reciprocation with the Deities that they serve either directly or indirectly.

I am now feeling that I should make Giridhari's little brick wall straighter. It is currently kind of crooked. Maybe he will straighten it out Himself!
Mina - Thu, 27 Mar 2003 07:25:55 +0530
I see a pattern in the various miracles described by Dr. Kapoor in his two books, "The Saints of Bengal" and "The Saints of Vraja". They all seem to involve some sort of reciprocation between the Vaishnava and his/her iSTa-devatA. As I already mentioned on the other topic, the Catholic Church uses the manifestation of miracles to authenticate candidates for sainthood in the canonization process. In our tradition, they end up in various hagiographies as part of the basic formula that sets those writings apart from the usual biography.

Certainly the sharing of such accounts by word of mouth has also gone on since ancient times, whether or not they end up in a written text. I had heard the various stories about our Baba (Tinkudi Goswami) many years before Dr. Kapoor had written about them.
Guest_Vaishnava-das - Tue, 22 Apr 2003 10:47:17 +0530
I had heard the various stories about our Baba (Tinkudi Goswami) many years before Dr. Kapoor had written about them.

Kindly share some of them?
Mina - Thu, 08 May 2003 23:26:32 +0530
Both of Dr. Kapoor's books, about the saints of Braja and Bengal are available in English from Sarasvati Jayasri Classics.
nabadip - Fri, 09 May 2003 21:41:22 +0530
QUOTE(Ananga @ May 8 2003, 05:56 PM)
Both of Dr. Kapoor's books, about the saints of Braja and Bengal are available in English from Sarasvati Jayasri Classics.

It would be interesting to see whether there is a slight change or differrence in the narration, as different witnesses see different things according to their angle or openness to perception. In the processes of the Catholic Church miracles are meticulously researched, and actuially the term "advocatus diaboli", (the devil's lawyer) stems from the fact, that s.o. tries to disprove any observation, so that what remains is really trustworthy. i am not saying that mistrust should be applied here, not at all, but I guess that a publication in a book might have a slightly embellished version of a fact-description compared to what was experienced by the persons involved. That is why a first or second hand re-telling, even if shorter, may give us as much pleasure or even more than what we read in a book. Thus it would be great to hesar from you what you were told, Ananga.

I think we face a general dearth of biographical circumstantial narration about saints. Most of us know what life really is about, the many things happening during our more or less wakeful hours... What i mean to say is, any information about the real life of any sadhaka is really helpful.

When I had read Kapoorji's books for the first time, I was really inspired, but I must confess, at one time or another i also felt dis-inspired, because of the high idealization of the saints involved, the unsurmountable gap between these mahatmas and my undeveloped self.

it is great to know that a saint like Radharamancharan das Babaji was present, and his way to go to a train station and just wait until someone offers him a ticket, or how he found his way in places where he never was before. Can we have such faith? I could not. Is it a question of surrender, or is it the absolute determination to follow only the will of the ista-devata, and is that esp. occurring with elevated saints? I think it has to do with time. Nowadays we do not have time to allow things to happen, we have schedules to meet, expectations to fill.

Another aspect about miracles: creation itself is really a miracle. the beauty of a dew-drop on a plant or a spider-web in the early morning sun. it is the exceptionality, a moment of special awareness which adds to the perception of an event as a miracle.

Your brick example seems to be entirely objective, though... A super-subjective will changed the molecules of the bricks to suit the needs of the job. No big deal for Giriraja who knows stone-ware inside out.
Mina - Sat, 10 May 2003 06:24:07 +0530
Well, I did notice that Baba's complexion was changing colors when I first met him in a darkened room, and it was not just your ordinary blushing and flushing - there were some golden and blue hues in there as well.

Jagat and his gurubhai Madhusudan told me some tales of various sadhus they observed exhibiting symptoms of ecstasy during kirton festivals, which included the carrying in of buckets to collect the tears and foaming at the mouth - that is how profuse it was.

I wish I had more firsthand accounts to relate. The incidents Kapoor wrote about were the same ones I had heard of by word of mouth.

The singer in our high school rock band (Mahashraya Das) that first took me to an ISKCON temple told me of how he saw baskets of flower petals being tossed over Prabhupada and how not a single one of them touched him. He also spoke of how others had seen this same phenomenon happen in the rain and how he had not gotten wet while his disciples were literally soaked.
Nabadip - Sat, 10 May 2003 11:43:39 +0530
Kind of confusing, this about Prabhupad. It raises the question whether any extraordinary phenomenon happening to a person is an endorsement of their status on a path. Believers would certainly say so. I do not know whether this is the place to discuss whether someone is a saint or not in the light of the details of their statements about real vaishnavas whom they called sahajiya. I feel grateful for the existence of Iskcon but am unhappy about its content and consequence. Here in this case, do you think it could be attributed, at best, to the special determination manifest in P., or would you say there is some divine intervention possible?

Maybe I missed it yet, or is there a thread of discussion on what constitutes aparadha on this forum and how to deal with it? Perhaps it must be seen as one form of miracle that people are thriving inspite of what they say and do. Is it that the chanting of the maha-mantra can have an effect on the material plane while it perhaps has none on a spiritual one for the people involved?

Who am I to say anything, but how to approach this - the global acceptance of anything even faintly connected to nirguna, especially to Bhagavan and his lila is certainly the best avenue, but when it comes to differentiation of who is who (viz. Nitai das' saying that just a visit in an Iskcon temple may affect one towards aparadha, or something similar)...

Okay, the bottomline: is the man a saint, with or without miracle, is he a bhakta inspite of lack of guru- pranali etc, inspite of systematic vaishnava-aparadha, and is the outcome, so many kali-yuga people attracted to Krsna-bhakti a miracle (a product of divine intervention or guidance) or just the result of a material effort?

It is all so double-sided, if one looks at the destruction that these organizations bring to the Holy Places (Raman-Reti as a suburb of palaces for the wealthy, the Market place of the Holy Name where money counts more thany anything else, where prasadam is sold - where in fact a Jesus is needed to come with a whip to drive the dealers and sellers out of the temple).

In the Catholic Church, three miracles are required to establish someone's sainthood. But also his or her life must be spotless, exemplary, because saints there serve the purpose of role models for others. In our tradition, however, it seems, every sadhaka of a previous generation is considered a saint, certainly if he or she has taken to an exclusive form of devotional sadhana for the rest of their life.

Seen from the perspective of trinad api... everyone and everything is holy, not only the bhaktas. But then, bhakti being hladini-shakti, can that be seen to be present in s.o. engulfed in systematic aparadha?

Questions...answers implied... is it all subjective? The views of all of you are welcome.